Posted by M. Asher Cantrell on May 9, 2013 in Apex Publications Blog: Matters of SF, Fantasy, and Horror | 0 comments
It’s late. You’ve been working all day, you’re tired, your bed is softly calling your name. (Howling your name, maybe? I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with your bed, buddy. That’s between you and your ergonomic body pillow.)
But you’ve got one last scene to write, and it’s a weird one. Say your main character has been sucked into a portal to Hell. Or she’s having a bizarre fever dream. Or he’s finally just had one hit of opium too many. It’s time for shit to get freaky.
You just plain can’t think of anything weird enough, though. Snakes with human voices? Bor-ing. Red-skinned demons talking backward? Lame. You need something crazy, and your brain just isn’t doing it on its own tonight. Hey, that’s no problem. There’s plenty of weird crap in the world to inspire you, and if you don’t believe me, all it takes is a fifteen second glance at the day’s news.
Where else can you find foreign tabloid stories about a woman giving birth to a horse or a video of a pizza shop owner seeing an angel in his store’s security footage? Seriously, the news can be way, way weirder than anything you can come up with at a moment’s notice.
That’s why I have a reserve stored, ready to be tapped at a moment’s notice like an aged oak barrel of whiskey. I see a bizarre, nonsensical news story and I stash it away like a squirrel preparing for a long winter. (It doesn’t hurt that my day job is basically writing about the weird things I find on the internet, too.) I’ve made a bookmark folder called “Weird Stuff” and it is filled with exactly that. The best part is that usually just the headline is enough to get the mental gears unstuck and running once again.
This ties very well with fantasy writer Kelly Link’s exercise of listing things you enjoy in other people’s fiction as a quick method for inspiring yourself with new ideas. I’m not an exceptionally well-developed fiction writer (the vast majority of my output is non-fiction articles, not unlike this one), but I feel like both of these techniques work in the same fashion (especially since I based my weird headlines method of off Link’s). Both give you a well of ideas to pick from when your brain has checked out for the immediate future, and quickly.
So, hey, it may seem obvious, or maybe even counter-intuitive, depending on your writing method. It’s not a magic bullet for writer’s block (if it was, I imagine Kelly Link would have patented it and charged millions for it by now), but it’s at least easier than trying to make another psychic hobo dream sound like something cool and fresh.
Ashe was born in Nashville, TN and received a B.A. in English/Writing from Middle Tennessee State University. He now lives near Nashville in an apartment that is smaller than the inside of many automobiles. He has been featured on sites like Cracked and Mental Floss, and his first book, The Book of Word Records, is available soon from Adams Media.
You can contact him (work offers welcome) by e-mailing email@example.com or, if you’re lucky and within about a 100 yard radius, you can try shouting his name loudly.